One of the places that should be on a hiker’s bucket list (or anyone even moderately interested in a stroll) is Paarl Rock. This massive outcrop of granite must have resembled a shining pearl in the distance to the early explorers who subsequently gave it the name meaning ‘pearl’ and it certainly puts the tumbled granite boulders of the Cape Peninsula to shame in size at least.
Anyone who has ever been to Paarl knows that it can be one of the hottest places in the Western Cape, and the day was scheduled for a hefty 35 degrees (in the shade). Taking into account rush-hour traffic if you are setting off from the Southern Suburbs, you can expect a journey of around an hour and a half to get there, so a very early start was needed to try and beat the heat later on. We wound up the long road to the top, arriving in the parking area just after 8.30 and already feeling warm. Incredible views stretched before us – an endless row of dragon’s teeth from north to south, enticing adventure beyond, and the entire Cape Peninsula from Cape Point to Table Mountain to the west. That in itself made the trip worthwhile.
After a quick snack in the shade of unidentified but impressively spreading trees at the strangely named Krismis Kamp, we set off along the gravel road to do a circular walk that would bring us past the gigantic granite outcrops. A very light breeze at the top of the mountain brought slight relief, and apart from a lizard or two and some distant birds, no other life stirred on that warm hillside. We eventually descended a very steep path – meaning that a very steep climb lay ahead – down to a babbling stream. A number of dams are in the hills, no doubt built to capture every last drop of precious rain for the many agricultural activities of the region.
The very steep climb back up the hill helped with the cardio and calorie burn, and we sat down to a very welcome picnic lunch under the same spreading tree, feeling fully justified in enjoying Scotch egg, pork pies, sandwiches, fruit, coffee and beer after our strenuous 5km walk. It was then off to climb the Rock!
We drove back along the winding road, taking the turning up to the very foot of the exposed granite – there was no way we could have hiked up from the picnic area – and set off to climb what is basically a round rock, with the aid of a fixed chain rail at the steepest part. It is unlikely that many people would make it up there without the chain as support, and I must confess that I trailed in the rear as the rest of the party tramped unconcernedly to the summit. I paused for breath and to admire the view many times on the way up and the group photo shows just how I felt when I got there!
I found it quite disconcerting to be on a round rock and felt that I could at any time simply tumble and roll down if I ventured away from the ‘spine’ It’s definitely not for those with vertigo. But again, the views are unsurpassed and really do make the effort worthwhile
We passed a man clinging to a cliff face – it was quite frightening to imagine ourselves in a similar position, but he was doing it for fun.
So for me that’s another one off the bucket list. I may not do it again. But never say never.